His charisma and passion will be missed

Updated: 2013-03-14 07:04

By Wang Hui (China Daily)

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His own countrymen looked upon him as the commander and treated him like a kin. His enemies called him a bully or even a dictator. Whether you liked him or not, Hugo Chavez will be remembered as a great politician with unique charisma and a passion for the times.

The death of the Venezuelan president on March 5 will have a profound impact on the political and economic landscape in Latin America. But before the repercussions of his passing can be fully gauged, the issue of immediate concern is who will take over the reins of the major oil producer in South America. It is widely thought that Nicols Maduro, the vice-president and Chavez's handpicked successor, has a good chance of winning the presidential election on April 14.

Whatever the outcome, those who have already established a sound relationship with Caracas or are seeking better ties have a stake in the political and social stability of post-Chavez Venezuela.

As a country that enjoyed rapid expansion of cooperation with Venezuela during Chavez's rule, China would like to see bilateral ties continue to grow on a smooth terrain in the post-Chavez era. Over more than a decade, Beijing and Caracas have forged cooperation and inked agreements in such fields as energy, agriculture, infrastructure, trade, finance and high-technology.

As an important trading partner of Venezuela, China is its second-largest market for crude oil exports. It serves both sides' interests to maintain the smooth development of these jointly funded projects and continue to expand the scope of bilateral cooperation.

From a regional perspective, the death of Chavez has drawn concerns about the future of the leftist revival in Latin American countries and the regional integration process, as the Venezuelan strongman played a significant role in both trends during his 14 years in power.

Chavez was seen as a beacon by the region's leftists, and left-leaning politicians have come to power in many major countries in the region. Like Chavez, they enjoy high domestic popularity and have made steady progress in a number of fields ranging from economic growth to poverty reduction. They have also shown a strong political will in promoting regional integration.

The rise of leftist governments in Latin America conforms to the trend of a multipolar world. As emerging economies, those countries are having increasing clout in the world's economic and political arenas.

True, few politicians in the region have either the influence or the passion that Chavez had for forging alliances and pushing regional integration. But judging by the progress made in recent years and the consensus in the region for self-reliance, the trend of regional integration seems irreversible.

Chavez himself made noticeable contributions to this trend. In 2004, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America was established with the aim of promoting regional integration and development by boosting trade. And in December 2011, to counter the Washington-dominated Organization of American States and to promote trade integration, 33 countries from the Americas, except the United States and Canada, established the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Chavez and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro spearheaded both organizations.

These accords have helped Latin American countries boost their political and economic self-reliance. They have propped up the tendency to build and support regional alliances aimed at common goals, a move that has helped speed up reforms and brought about forceful changes in Latin American countries.

With countries in Latin America showing a stronger solidarity and making headway in regional integration, the region has looked beyond its traditional trading partners, Europe and the US, to cooperation with Asia and the Middle East.

Such positive changes in the region have naturally boosted its influence on the world stage. Leaders in the region have every reason to continue to build on this good momentum in the post-Chavez era as it caters to the region's common goal of development and prosperity.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail: wanghui@chinadaily.com.cn

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